Books that inspired J.R.R. Tolkien get new cover art (05.09.13 by Pieter Collier) - Comments

Penguin Classics is re-releasing several titles that are said to have inspired J R R Tolkien.

Legends from the Ancient North brings together some of the magical texts that most influenced J.R.R Tolkien, and the re-packaged books have been slashed in price and given new jackets to be published before “The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug” comes out in cinemas.

The five titles include Beowulf, The Saga of the Volsungs, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Elder Edda and The Wanderer.

Publishing director Simon Winder said: "Tolkien was professor of Anglo Saxon for many years at Oxford so he knew all of these inside out and was fascinated by them."

Each of the five books from the Legends from the Ancient North series will be given new designs, courtesy of artist Petra Borner. The covers have been reworked graphically, and given an infusion of color, with each cover featuring a hero or creature mentioned within the book itself.

Penguin will be releasing the redesigned books in November later this year. 
Penguin - The Eldar Edda

Legends from the Ancient North

“There are some really interesting links — The Wanderer has all the kinds of riddles that Gollum told in it — and The Hobbit is totally a work of Tolkien’s own imagination, but you can see what fired him was this world of elves and dragons and swords and heroic bravery and terrible monsters and dangerous journeys. He just revelled in all of that, and we wanted to create something new which would express his own excitement at this world that he knew really well.”

Winder, who was behind several of Penguin Classics’ series including Great Ideas, Great Journeys, Mini Modern Classics and Penguin English Library, said he saw an opportunity to “get everyone reading sagas again”, and added that the Legends from the Ancient North series was a way of celebrating Penguin Classics and Tolkien’s imagination.

The five key works’ links to the Hobbit film is a “light link, but an important one”, Winder added. “We’re hoping that bookshops will display them intelligently so people will make that link. I think it’s fair to say that Tolkien was the first serious academic who thought Beowulf was a great work of art; until then it was considered a curiosity and I think only one copy existed. People thought it was a ridiculous story about swords and witches, and when he was writing The Hobbit that was on the back of his mind—how do you dramatise these sorts of things?"

Winder's final words on the series do really tell us of the importance of the redesign of the series. “It’s funny how the stories in the world of Edda and The Saga of the Volsungs has sunk into the minds of millions of people through Tolkien, but we’ve sold hundreds of thousands of copies of Beowulf now; it in itself is a famous translation.”

Legends from the Ancient North brings together from Penguin Classics five of the key works behind Tolkien's fiction.They are startling, brutal, strange pieces of writing, with an elemental power brilliantly preserved in these translations.They plunge the reader into a world of treachery, quests, chivalry, trials of strength.They are the most ancient narratives that exist from northern Europe and bring us as near as we will ever get to the origins of the magical landscape of Middle-earth (Midgard) which Tolkien remade in the 20th century.

Beowulf - the epic battle between man and monster

'So the company of men led a careless life,
All was well with them: until One began
To encompass evil, an enemy from hell.
Grendel they called this cruel spirit...'



Beowulf 
tells the epic story of the heroic Beowulf and his battles, first against the monster Grendel, who laid waste to the castle of the Danish king Hrothgar, then with Grendel's avenging mother, and finally with a dragon that threatens to devastate his homeland.

J.R.R. Tolkien spent much of his life studying, translating and teaching the great epic stories of northern Europe, filled with heroes, dragons, trolls, dwarves and magic. He was hugely influential for his advocacy of Beowulf as a great work of literature and, even if he had never written The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, would be recognised today as a significant figure in the rediscovery of these extraordinary tales.

Penguin - Beowulf
Title: Beowulf
Translator:
Michael Alexander

Publisher:
Penguin Classics; Reprint edition
Publication Date:
7 Nov 2013

Type:
paperback, 208 pages
ISBN-10: 0141393661
ISBN-13:
978-0141393667

The Saga of the Volsungs - The Legend of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer and the magic ring of power

'They summoned their friends, readied
their horses, and prepared their helmets,
shields, swords, coats of mail'



Based on Viking Age poems and composed in thirteenth-century Iceland, The Saga of the Volsungscombines mythology, legend, and sheer human drama in telling of the heroic deeds of Sigurd the dragon slayer, who acquires runic knowledge from one of Odin's Valkyries. Yet the saga is set in a very human world, incorporating oral memories of the fourth and fifth centuries, when Attila the Hun and other warriors fought on the northern frontiers of the Roman empire.

In his illuminating introduction Jesse L. Byock links the historical Huns, Burgundians, and Goths with the extraordinary events of this Icelandic saga. With its ill-fated Rhinegold, the sword reforged, and the magic ring of power, the saga resembles the Nibelungenlied and has been a primary source for such fantasy writers as J. R. R. Tolkien and for Richard Wagner's Ring cycle.

Penguin - The Saga of the Volsungs
Title: The Saga of the Volsungs
Translator:
Jesse L. Byock

Publisher:
Penguin Classics; Reprint edition
Publication Date:
7 Nov 2013

Type:
paperback, 160 pages
ISBN-10: 0141393688
ISBN-13:
978-0141393681

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight - Chivalry, seduction and a challenge to the death

Tomorrow I must set off to receive that blow,
to seek out that creature in green,
God help me!



Composed in the fourteenth century, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is as beloved as it is venerable, combining the hallmarks of medieval romance—pageantry, chivalry, and courtly love—with the charm of fairy tales and heroic sagas. When a mysterious green knight rides on horseback into King Arthur’s court, interrupting a New Year’s feast, he issues a challenge: if any of King Arthur’s men can behead him and he survives, then a year later he is entitled to return the strike.

Sir Gawain takes up the challenge and decapitates the green knight, only to see him pick up his severed head and ride away, leaving Gawain to seek him out to fulfill their pact. Blending Celtic myth and Christian faith, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a Middle English masterpiece of magic, chivalry, and seduction.

Penguin - Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Title: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Translator:
Bernard O'Donoghue

Publisher:
Penguin Classics; Reprint edition
Publication Date:
7 Nov 2013

Type:
paperback, 128 pages
ISBN-10: 014139370X
ISBN-13:
978-0141393704

The Elder Edda - Myths, Gods and Heroes from the Viking World

'I was in the East, battling giants,
wicked-hearted women, who wandered the fells;
great would be the giant-race, if they all lived:
mankind would be nothing under, middle-earth.
What did you do meantime, Grey-beard?'



Compiled by an unknown scribe in Iceland around 1270, and based on sources dating centuries earlier, the heroic poems of The Elder Edda tell of gods and mortals from an ancient era: the giant-slaying Thor, the doomed Völsung family, the Hell-ride of Brynhild, and the cruelty of Atli the Hun.

Eclectic and fragmented, these verses nevertheless retain their stark beauty and power to enthrall, opening a window on to the thoughts, beliefs and hopes of the Vikings and their world.

Penguin - The Eldar Edda
Title: The Elder Edda
Translator:
Andrew Orchard

Publisher:
Penguin Classics; Reprint edition
Publication Date:
7 Nov 2013

Type:
paperback, 432 pages
ISBN-10: 0141393726
ISBN-13:
978-0141393728

The Wanderer: Elegies, Epics, Riddles - Poem's from England's ancient origins

'Therefore I may not think, throughout this world,
why cloud cometh not on my mind
when I think over all the life of earls,
how at a stroke they have given up hall,
mood-proud thanes. So this middle earth
each of all days ageth and falleth'



In this collection of the earliest verse in English, heroic poems celebrate the courage, loyalty, and strength of the ancient world: in "The Battle of Maldon" a brave Anglo-Saxon army attempt to fend off a Viking invasion; "The Wanderer" and "The Seafarer" reflect on exile, loss and destiny; and The Exeter Riddles are witty linguistic puzzles that directly influenced Golum's famous riddles in Tolkien's The Hobbit.
Penguin - The Wanderer
Title: The Wanderer: Elegies, Epics, Riddles
Translator:
Michael Alexander

Publisher:
Penguin Classics; Reprint edition
Publication Date:
7 Nov 2013

Type:
paperback, 192 pages
ISBN-10: 0141393742
ISBN-13:
978-0141393742

Enjoyed this post? Click to get future articles delivered by email or get the RSS feed.


Spread the news about this J.R.R. Tolkien article: